Currently Browsing: Uncategorized

New Year Thoughts

I get most of my exercise these days from shaking my head in disbelief.

Something about the changing of the years invites an atavistic response to make grand adjustments. As I get older, though, it becomes clearer to me that really, the change from one year to the next is about as stirring as the change from one day to the next. There’s gratitude that we’ve been granted another sunrise, naturally. But January is a dreary month. Quite similar to December, in point of fact. (As I write this, it’s been snowing for 24+ hours, we have more than a foot of snow on the ground at our house, and the county and the Federal governments have shut down for work tomorrow.)

So while big changes aren’t necessarily in the works, I’ve been considering my blog in the past two weeks. It’s not a particularly high-traffic website, and serves primarily to let readers, friends, and family know what’s been going through my head recently. Since it represents very few conversions to sales, and takes several hours to craft each time I post, I will be cutting back the number of posts–likely to once every 2-3 weeks, unless I have a book review I feel compelled to share.

Part of the reason for this has also been an ongoing conversation with hubs about focusing on those elements of our lives that bring us the most satisfaction. As introverts, we face the holiday season with a lot of cringing. Being in loud, boisterous environments is draining–even if there end up being a couple people present who we genuinely enjoy. We started experimenting with just saying no to attending large gatherings. Given how much better we felt, that is likely to continue.

There are other reasons to retreat from a busy social calendar, too. Articles I read recently point to other pitfalls of modern living. One written about the millennial generation, which is younger than both of us, still addressed the stress and burnout we’ve been dealing with… for similar reasons. The reality most authors (and artists) face is that we’re working day jobs and squeezing out productivity from the hours others might dedicate to their extended families and friends, or hobbies done just for the fun of it, not for overcoming the ubiquity of living paycheck to paycheck and looking for additional income streams. Or working in an industry known for its ability to drive women out of its ranks. Unsurprisingly, these stresses in my generation are trickling down to the next generation in even more pernicious ways.

On the flip side, there were a number of articles proclaiming their joy at works with an authorized publication date of 1923 being released into the public domain. (I will be curious to see whether anyone does something creative with Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, which featured on this list.) Similarly, Isaac Asimov made some astute predictions on the eve of 1984 about the nature of our world now. His points about the changing requirements of our workforce in the face of “computerization”, and how those would require changes in education have compelling echoes in the last article I linked to in the previous paragraph.

In news that provokes my scifi author brain, two other articles rounded out my online reading. The first reviewed recent studies in genetics that point to the need for a radical revision of the gene concept: “The utility of the concept of a basic ‘unit of inheritance’ and the long implicit belief that genes are autonomous agents” means researchers are finding much broader context for genes’ activities. In fact, some studies seem to point to the idea that genes are responding to the community of cells around them much more than simply driving creation of their replicas. In my mind, this has a provocative link to the article I read about quantum computers. Recent research in that field indicates the existence of an intrinsic error-correction mechanism that could also explain the robustness of space-time. In 2014, physicists looking to fix the daunting error rates of qubits discovered “a deep connection between quantum error correction and the nature of space, time, and gravity.”

Could it be that genetics and physics are converging on something akin to a holographic view? It’s a question that has my story brain hopping, though I’ve been too busy with day-job related efforts and the remnants of the final few holiday obligations we accepted to do anything much about it. Still, I managed three days of writing so far this month, producing 547 words after a complete stand-still in December. Hubs and I have formed a creative pact to finish what we’re working on by the end of May, so maybe having a partner in art at home will push us both to reach our goals.

The nature of the world being what it is, there is more than a little truth to the graphic I included with today’s post (courtesy of hubs’ Reddit scrolling). I enjoy blogging as a way of tracking where some of my ideas originate or are fleshed out. And as a way of holding myself publicly accountable for progress on my writing. But given the increasing time constraints in our lives, it seems best to focus my efforts further by cutting back on a few things that don’t offer much return. So I’ll be back (here) when the spirit moves me, but I’ll always be around in my books.

Thoughts and Plans

Triathlete: Eating, Reading, Sleeping

It’s officially the last day of 2018 as I start writing this, so my final check-in of the year isn’t even on my regular blogging day. Sometime in the course of this year, my blogging goals shifted on me in a way I’m not entirely clear about just yet. The quarterly ROW80 “sprints” drift in time the same way I do. It’s difficult to feel committed to any of those deadlines when life happens with such regularity.

And yet, I like having a spot to check in–if not weekly, at least semi-monthly. Where I can consider some of the things I’ve read and keep track of old articles that keep bumping through my brain.

In the past week, for instance, medical researchers published a finding about parachutes being useless that highlighted quite a few of the pitfalls of experimental design. And I learned about a charity that makes a practice of buying medical debts in the US to be able to wipe them out. As well as the impact of the ridiculous cost of housing in California, that is pushing more and more people to live out of converted vans. Finally, there was a woman who learned at 50 that her father was not the man she’d been raised to believe he was.

Each of these stories is a unique reflection of the time and place in which I live–as well as being a leading indicator for why I’ve been spending an outsized portion of my time immersed in fiction. According to my Goodreads Reading Challenge page, I’ve read 85 books this year. From what I recall, only one of those was a paperback, and a disproportionate number were romances of various stripes. The original moniker for my blog (A Book A Day) has never been more true than in the past week, as I’ve spent each of my evenings churning through yet another novel. So when I stumbled across the cute image I’m including in this week’s edition on Twitter, it felt entirely appropriate.

This year, despite focusing on a genre that I know will deliver a happy ending, I’ve broadened my stable of favorite authors. I’ve discovered Alyssa Cole, Ekaterine Xia, Holley Trent, CE Murphy, Seanan McGuire, Olivia Dade, and Vivian Arend. Many of these authors are on Twitter, too, so I get treated to their thoughts on other topics (including their various 4-footed friends) as well as the outstanding fiction they produce. I’m thrilled that my old favorites keep coming up with new stories, too. I’m as much of a voracious reader as I ever was, though it’s odd to have numbers that quantify what that means–that it’s not unusual for me to read 2-3 books per week. But getting back to the triathlete image… retreating as thoroughly as I have this year into fiction suggests a level of escapism that means I should probably work for a bit more balance in my choice of pursuits.

Which brings me to a blog post by one of the people in my Triberr groups: How to choose a word for the upcoming year. I’m tempted by several: tranquil, work, balance, and focus. (Though, honestly, that last word now only plays in my head in the evil “I’m hypnotizing you” way that the character in the Marvel “Agents of SHIELD” said it… so it might not mean *exactly* what its dictionary definition is to me anymore.) Hubs and I will be discussing this later today to see whether we can refine a vision for the new year that lets us reach some of our goals.

So I’ll return in the new year with my thoughts and plans and see whether I can find balance in my various interests and pursuits.

Human Rights and the Writer

Blog Action Day
It’s been a busy week for me already, so I’m taking some time out to reflect on a topic that affects us all: human rights. Whether we acknowledge the history that has allowed us the power to vote, associate, or stay healthy and work, and notwithstanding the comprehensive statement any participant nation in the UN has signed on to with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, too many forget that these rights exist for ALL, and have been gained at many times at terrible cost. For my story-writing self, this is rich fodder; for my friends who are still in limbo on whether their marriages will be recognized… or for women who seek equality under the law… or for victims of human trafficking who are stuck in slavery… the reality is that we have a long way to go before even the basics outlined in that document become universal in the way they were intended.

As my friend, critiquer, and fellow blogger Sabrina Garie points out in her post on the topic, our ability to expose these contradictions in our stories can help individual readers wrestle with those same issues. I suspect we all hope that our entertainment efforts plant a few seeds of consciousness in our audience so they’re not as automatically unconscious about how they treat their fellow beings. As another friend and blogger, Kasia James, points out, by listening to and understanding each others’ stories, we gain empathy and true compassion. In my experience, it’s when we truly internalize those characteristics that we not only gain tolerance, but also the strength to join the fight for those who still need our help in attaining what some few already have.

My experiences growing up around the globe have shown me that by and large, individuals are not that different. We’re all looking for satisfaction in our lives, work, and relationships. Differences of opinion and belief for the most part boil down to varying approaches to handle the same core issues: What is the meaning of our existence and how do we align ourselves in such a way as to maximize our capacity to fulfill our goals. As an Anne McCaffrey reader and Star Trek fan, internalizing the utopian view of a meritocracy where regardless of skill, basic needs are always met, has had a profound impact on my own sense of justice and equality. It is my hope that someday, some nuggets from my own stories push others in the same way.

Many bloggers are participating in today’s Blog Action Day; I encourage you to read what they have to say–and especially to visit Sabrina and Kasia.

Caveat Emptor: Worthless Sealy Warranty – Mattress Review

Sealy Posturepedic Mattress

Exhibit A for the definition of Buyer Beware

I’m not a great complainer. I tend to view the world through rose-colored glasses. So when I run up against head-scratchingly bad decisions, I generally opt to raise the conversation at the next higher point of decisionmaking. Typically, another perspective resolves the issue and either helps me understand what the problem is in my viewpoint, or changes the previous decision.

This set of guidelines has served me well in my life, and has been validated in both of the first two MBA classes I’ve taken.

In particular, when you market your product as solving customer issues (in my case, that a latex-core mattress will reduce my allergy symptoms, and mine and my husband’s back problems, that had resulted from our old mattress’ springs failing), you build up a certain level of enthusiasm and good will. When your sales people assure your customers that this is a 20-year mattress, with a 10-year warranty to stand behind its quality and worth as an investment, and that despite the fact that you will sweat more because of the nature of the latex mattress, using a standard mattress pad will protect your investment sufficiently, then please, let these words be your company’s truth. After all, this is a not-insignificant investment that should only come around once every 15 to 20 years.

We loved our mattress for 5 years. We took normal and recommended care of it. And we sweated a lot. Because of this, there are sweat stains on the mattress. Because we took seriously the “do not expose to liquid” injunction, and the “it’s fine so long as you use a mattress pad” explanation, we shrugged about the stains.

Apparently, those are now the reason Sealy does NOT stand behind its warranty.

I’ve just spent the better part of two weeks going round in circles first with the store (who sent out an inspector with complicated measuring devices and confirmed that the foam had collapsed 1.5″ on one side and 2″ on the other–far outside their warranty’s parameters) and then the Sealy home office.

Their final word:

For the reasons listed in the email above and outlined in your warranty it’s never pleasant to disappoint our consumers, however we must inform you based on the limited warranty your mattress can not be replaced. We feel the decision of your retailer, The Boston Store, was the correct decision based on the information provided.

The reason I went through the second round of information trading was because there WAS NO LIQUID SATURATION. It was sweat-stained as part of normal wear and tear, after careful protection with both high-quality mattress pads and sheets.

So I’m posting this warning to any potential Sealy customers: The company is in the business of producing a product that will seem great for a short while. Just long enough to make sure you’ve sweated enough to ensure that their warranty is not worth the paper it’s printed on.

Meantime, we’re back to having back issues. Does anyone have a recommendation for a better mattress?

Teaser Tuesday: Water for Elephants

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB @ Should Be Reading (she also hosts some other great memes). (And I found out about it via Cabin Goddess…) Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • • Grab your current read
    • Open to a random page
    • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
    • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
    • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

So. Without further ado:

I spend the night on a crumpled horse blanket against the wall, as far from the cot as I can. The blanket is damp. Whoever covered the slats when they turned this into a room did a lousy job, so the blanket’s been rained on and reeks of mildew.

This one caught my curiosity because the Hollywood machine decided to turn it into a movie: Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen.

Water for Elephants

The writing is evocative, but nothing like what I was expecting based on the random trailers I’d seen, so it’s been sitting on my desk for a few weeks while I try to finish editing my book to meet my deadlines… So the review is likely to be a few weeks off yet.

😉

Related articles

« Previous Entries

  • RSS
  • Facebook
  • Google+
  • LinkedIn
  • NetworkedBlogs
  • Twitter
  • Flickr
  • YouTube
  • Blip.fm
  • Delicious
  • Pinterest